The national bourgeoisie was first outlined by Mao Zedong in his titular text, On the Question of the National Bourgeoise and Landed Gentry. The national bourgeoisie is a class that only exists in semi-colonial and semi-imperial nations (such as China prior to 1949). The concept of the national bourgeoisie continues to be used in modern Marxist discourse to this very day.
It is a distinct class that is opposed to imperialism, but is not anti-capitalist, because the national bourgeois are bourgeois themselves. In the eyes of Mao, the existence of the national bourgeoisie and the people is an inherent contradiction. The national bourgeoisie has an inherent conciliatory and an inherently revolutionary character to it.
Class character of the national bourgeoisie
The national bourgeoisie is a progressive force against imperialism and the colonial powers that seek to carve up the nation it belongs to. However, there is an inherent antagonism within the National Bourgeoisie and the working class. Because one seeks to exploit, while the other seeks to liberate itself. However, according to Mao:
In our country, the contradiction between the working class and the national bourgeoisie belongs to the category of contradictions among the people. Largely, the class struggle between the two is a class struggle within the ranks of the people, because the Chinese national bourgeoisie has a dual character. In the period of the bourgeois-democratic revolution, it had both a revolutionary and a conciliationist side to its character. In the period of the socialist revolution, exploitation of the working class for profit constitutes one side of the character of the national bourgeoisie, while its support of the Constitution and its willingness to accept socialist transformation constitute the other. The national bourgeoisie differs from the imperialists, the landlords and the bureaucrat-capitalists. The contradiction between the national bourgeoisie and the working class is one between the exploiter and the exploited, and is by nature antagonistic. Nevertheless, in the concrete conditions of China, this antagonistic class contradiction can, if properly handled, be transformed into a non-antagonistic one and be resolved by peaceful methods. However, it will change into a contradiction between ourselves and the enemy if we do not handle it properly and do not follow the policy of uniting with, criticizing and educating the national bourgeoisie, or if the national bourgeoisie does not accept this policy of ours.
Mao believed it was possible to seamlessly integrate the national bourgeoisie into the working class, through the gradual erosion of class towards communism. Then, the national bourgeoisie would fall under the rule and guidance of the People's democratic dictatorship. However, he warned against the potential right wing elements and antagonistic elements of the National Bourgeoisie as outlined in this quote:
The few right-wingers among the national bourgeoisie who attach themselves to imperialism, feudalism and bureaucrat-capitalism and oppose the people's democratic revolution are also enemies of the revolution, while the left-wingers among the national bourgeoisie who attach themselves to the working people and oppose the reactionaries are also revolutionaries, as are the few enlightened gentry who have broken away from the feudal class. But the former are not the main body of the enemy any more than the latter are the main body among the revolutionaries; neither is a force that determines the character of the revolution. The national bourgeoisie is a class which is politically very weak and vacillating. But the majority of its members may either join the people's democratic revolution or take a neutral stand, because they too are persecuted and fettered by imperialism, feudalism and bureaucrat-capitalism. They are part of the broad masses of the people but not the main body, nor are they a force that determines the character of the revolution. However, because they are important economically and may either join in the struggle against the United States and Chiang Kai-shek or remain neutral in that struggle, it is possible and necessary for us to unite with them.
In the eyes of Mao, the national bourgeoisie was economically necessary to build up the productive forces, especially under the New Democracy that Mao outlined. However, politically they should have weak power and be subordinate to the will of the proletarian state. They exist as a tool to increase and build upon the productive forces, but should be eroded over time and assimilated as the divisions of class break down.